Gordon Carr Ellis was born in Suffolk, studied at the Essex Institute of Agriculture and went into the ironmongery business. He was a gifted singer. He joined the army early in the war, survived Gallipoli, being evacuated home with dysentery, and then went to the Western Front where he was wounded near Cambrai. He was killed by gas poisoning in March 1918. His family home was in Hill Road.
ELLIS, GORDON CARR,
Lance Corporal, 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
After a calm passage we reached Alexandria on April 4, having stayed at Malta for 24 hours en route, We were very glad to leave the troopship, the accommodation on which was very limited. Our stay at Alexandria was short, as we re-embarked on the same troopship on April 9. After a monotonous wait at Lemos for a fortnight we got to the Dardanelles on April 25.
We expect you have read of the reception we got on landing. We had a very busy time for the first fortnight, and frequently we had to carry cases for four or five miles, with only two bearers on each stretcher, and there are. of course, no good roads out here. Owing to the enemy’s shell fire we were unable to have our wagons out at first, but we are glad to say we are now utilising these.
We are camped right by the sea, and often manage to get a bathe, which is very welcome, as the heat here is sometimes intense, and when there is a breeze it is accompanied by much dust. We are getting quite good food for war time; nevertheless the parcel post from ho,e is eagerly looked for. We are sleeping in dug-outs (i.e. funk-holes), and most of these we have named - ours is ‘Chelmsford Terrace’.
You will be sorry to hear that two of our fellows have been wounded. Coles was hit by a piece of shrapnel last Thursday week as a small party of us were returning to camp from our advance dressing station. Cook was wounded while attending a case by the bursting of a shell. Neither of the wounds is serious, and we hope to have them both back with us within two or three weeks.
Coles was personally congratulated by our General for gallantry about a fortnight ago.
We have read what a busy time the V.A.D. has been having a Chelmsford, and best wishes for its continued success, - We are, yours sincerely, Gordon Ellis, A. S. Leech, W. Larrett, H. J. Gozzett, S. W. Newman, S. Finch, S. Knight, W. R. Norfolk, C.G. Hardy, H. Williams.’”
Gordon died from gas poisoning on 13th March 1918 while serving as Lance Corporal 473196 in the 88th Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was aged 24.
On 22nd March 1918 the Essex County Chronicle carried the following family announcement:
“Ellis. - In Flanders on 13th March, Gordon Carr Ellis, aged 23, only surviving son of Clement and Julia Ellis, Chelmsford, after three and a half years’ Field Ambulance service in Gallipoli and France.”
The same edition also reported:
“Pt. Gordon C. Ellis R.A.M.C., only surviving son of Mr. and Mrs. Clement Ellis of 42 Hill Road, Chelmsford died on March 13 from gas shell poisoning a short time after admission to hospital on the Western front. The deceased who was 23 years of age, joined up a month after the outbreak of war, and was with the first landing party at Gallipoli. Subsequently he came home with dysentery, and on recovering went to the Western front.
He was wounded in the shoulder in the Cambrai retirement. He had many other narrow escapes, on one occasion being the only unwounded man on an ambulance while shattered by an enemy shell. The sad intelligence of his death was communicated by a sister-in-charge of a hospital.
In civil life the deceased was well-known as a singer, his fine baritone voice being much in demand, and while serving with the Army he was a popular member of the concert party of his division. Pt. Ellis was very popular too, among his fellow members of the Chelmsford Y.M.C.A. and often contributed to their musical programmes. He underwent training at the East Anglian Institute of Agriculture at Chelmsford, but there being no suitable vacancy on a farm at the completion of his studies, he went into the ironmongery business with Messrs. Harrison at Chelmsford, and shortly after this he responded to the call for the Army. Very much, sympathy will be felt with his parents in their bereavement.”
A family announcement also appeared in the day’s Essex Weekly News:
“Ellis. - On 13th March, in Flanders, Gordon Carr Ellis, only surviving son of Clement and Julia Ellis, of Chelmsford, after three and a half years’ field ambulance service i Gallipoli and France, aged 23.”
The same edition also carried a report o Gordon’s death:
“Pte. Gordon C. Ellis, R.A.M.C., of whose death on March 13 from gas-shell poisoning news was received on Sunday morning, was the only surviving son of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Ellis, 42, Hill-rd., Chelmsford, He passed away very soon after his admission to hospital on the Western Front. It is only a few weeks ago hat e was home on leave. Deceased was 24 years of age, and was one of a party of a dozen young Chelmsfordians who, having had previous experience of V.A.D. and ambulance work, joined the R.A.M.C. about a month after the outbreak of war, and he is believed to be the only one of the party who has up to the present been called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, although most of them have suffered many hardships and several have been wounded.
Gordon Ellis was in the first landing party at Gallipoli, but having suffered from dysentery he was sent he was sent home, and afterwards proceeded to France, being wounded in the Cambrai retirement. He also had several narrow escapes, and on one occasion was the only man unwounded on an ambulance which was smashed by an enemy shell.
Prior to the war he had undergone training at the East Anglian Institute of Agriculture, but failing at the moment to find a suitable opening in agriculture he was for a short time engaged in Messrs. Harrison’s ironmongery business in Chelmsford. Locally he was well known as a vocalist and often assisted at concerts. Later in the Army he was a popular member of the concert party of his Division, possessing a fine baritone voice.
Deceased was a member of the London-rd. Congregational Church, where on Sunday evening the Rev. T. M. Mundle, pastor, made a feeling reference to the sorrow occasioned by his death and expressed the sympathy felt my members of the Church and congregation for the bereaved parents.”
Gordon is buried at Nine Elms British Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium (grave: X. B. 19). He is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial and London Road Congregational Church Memorial. He was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
His parents were listed by the 1918 register of electors at 42 Hill Road, Springfield (pictured) and later lived at Holne Lodge, Walton, Felixstowe, Suffolk. His parents died in Suffolk in 1953; his father aged 91 and his mother aged 86. Gordon is commemorated on his parents' gravestone at Ipswich Cemetery.
Gordon was born in Canonbury, London in 1894, the son of the chemist Clement Ellis and Julia Emma Ellis (nee Hastings). His father had been born c1863 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent; his mother in 1867 in Bickley, Kent.
The couple had married at St. Mary’s Church, Islington London on 6th May 1891. At the time Gordon’s father was a 29 year-old chemist living at 79 Grosvenor Road in Islington; his mother was five years younger and lived in Bickley. They had three children of only whom one, Gordon, reached adulthood. The others were Clement Hastings Ellis (1893-1899) and Eileen Julia Ellis (1898-1898).
The 1901 census found six year-old Gordon living with his parents, his father’s cousin and a servant at Cromwell, Felixstowe in Suffolk. His father was a chemist.
A decade later the 1911 census recorded 16 year-old Gordon living with his parents and a servant at Keston in Tomline Road in Felixstowe. Gordon was a farm pupil, while his father remained a chemist.
Gordon studied at the East Anglian Institute of Agriculture and then worked at Harrison’s ironmongery business in Chelmsford. He had experience in Chelmsford’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) and was one of a dozen Chelmsford men with such
experience who joined the Royal Medical Corps early in the war. He was posted to the 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
He completed our training at Peterborough, Bury St. Edmunds, Coventry, and Leamington, and became attached to the 88th Brigade of the 29th Division. The Field Ambulance left England on 21st March 1915, arriving at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915.
The Essex County Chronicle of 11th June 1915 included an article relating to Gordon:
“At the Dardanelles- Private Gordon Ellis, son of Mr, Clement Ellis, 42 Hill Road, Chelmsford, who is at the Dardanelles, writes a very inspiring letter to his parents, in the course of which he says: -
‘Dear Father and Mother, - of course you have read all about our doings out here in the papers, but it is difficult to imagine what a battlefield is like unless one has seen it for oneself. Imagine a big stretch of open country, something like, say Galleywood Common, and concealed behind hedges and trees and dotted all over the country the big guns of the Artillery. These guns work on in conjunction with the aeroplanes, who fly sometimes right over the enemy’s trenches amid a hail of shrapnel. The aeroplanes signal to our artillery the strongholds of the enemy.
As you walk across the battlefield you constantly come across small graves hastily dug by the comrades of the brave fellows who die so nobly for the homeland, The more I see of the men who go to the trenches night after night the more I admire them, especially the Colonials; they are simply grand,
Over the battlefield there are huge holes made by the enemies’’ shells; some of these are 5 and 6 feet deep. Then you come across ruined farm houses, which make very good dressing stations, if not too close to the firing line.
We have made a new dressing station in a very deep gulley. It is an ideal place. We are nicely protected, although the rifle shots fly over us, but the gulley is very deep, and if the shots drop on our place they are usually spent bullets and do not do much harm.
We usually go up to our dressing station for two days then back to our camp for four days’ rest. Last time we were up I was on guard from 2 to 4 in the morning, and it was a weird and strange night to see our troops going up past our station to take their turn in the trenches.
The trench diggers are armed with picks and shovels, and all go to the trenches in single file. They creep up in front of our own line and lie down flat, and pick the earth up with the small trenching tools, and as soon as they have a bit of cover raked up they start with the picks and shovels, You can guess it is dangerous work digging the new trenches when we make an advance.’
Private Ellis was in the Chelmsford V.A.D. before he joined the East Anglian Field Ambulance attached to a Division now in the Dardanelles. Five or six other Chelmsford men are with him in the same ambulance.”
Gordon was one of ten men whose letter home was published in the Essex Weekly News on 2nd July 1915:
‘Chelmsford Men in the Dardanelles - Ambulance Work behind the Firing Line - The following interesting letter has been received by Capt. W. G. Wenley, of Chelmsford, from a member of Chelmsford men serving in the R.A.M.C. in the Dardanelles. They underwent training in the first instance as members of the Chelmsford Voluntary Aid Detachment, in connection with which Capt. Wenley is rendering valuable assistance. The letter is dated June 13, British War Mediterranean Expeditionary Foce ‘On Active Service’ and reads as follows:-
Dear Capt. Wenley, - We were very sorry to hear of the accident to Mrs. Wenley and yourself, and hope that you are both quite well again.
It may interest you to know how we have been getting on since we left the Chelmsford V.A.D. Having joining the 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance at Ipswich, we completed our training at Peterborough, Bury St. Edmunds, Coventry, and Leamington, and became attached to the 88th Brigade of the 29th Division, which left England on March 21.